The Two Most Significant Investments I Made This Year

The last couple of weeks we've been talking about end-of-year budgeting, looking ahead to 2018, and some wise places to consider spending some of that hard-earned cash. Those decisions aren't easy, but sometimes they totally pay off.

First, we compared social media scheduling tools. It's only been a couple of weeks, but I'm already seeing a good ROI from Smarterqueue! Then, last week, we talked about the pros and cons of co-working spaces for those of us in nontraditional office environments. It's a hot topic in my corner of the world, and may be in yours as well.

This week, as we wrap up this series, and November, I wanted to discuss the two most significant investments I've made in my business this year. They may just surprise you, especially considering one of them is free!

Here are the two most significant investments I've made in my business this year. They may just surprise you, especially considering one of them is free!

Getting Accountability

If asked in a job interview—yes, I would describe myself as a self-starter. I've always been a pretty determined person, full of hopes, goals, and dreams, and the initiative to pursue them. So, working from home as a solopreneur was not a problem. I've had friends who said they'd get distracted easily or never get anything done, and yes, that does occasionally happen. But, for the most part, I'm good at checking things off my list. (And I love checking things off my list!)

However, I think there are times when a little accountability can benefit us all. It's certainly worked for successful programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, and many others. Even the most motivated of us need a little extra skin in the game from time-to-time.

So, this summer, the opportunity to have an "accountabilabuddy" presented itself, and I jumped at it!

Jen Gordon and I met through a mutual friend, and hit it off immediately over breakfast. A few minutes into our conversation, she told me that she'd read my website and wanted to hire me for her launch. However, after talking about her skills and knowledge, I knew I could benefit from her expertise as well. So, I proposed that we meet twice a month for three months to exchange insights that would help us both build our businesses.

That three months is still going strong six months later! It has been the absolute, best, hands-down decision I made in my business this year. We are each flying solo, so we act as sounding boards for each other, share what we're learning, offer suggestions, and hold each other accountable for deadlines both big and small. 

It's very unstructured for the most part, but we each leave with our action steps that we'll be responsible for at our next meeting. And we check in with each other throughout the month as needed.

This summer I did a two-part series about "working ON your business, rather than IN your business" because it's just so darn easy to get "admined" to death by all the little things that need to happen. So, it can be really difficult to maintain vision for large goals and initiatives at your organization. Having Jen around helps me get the small things done, while staying focused on the big picture—and she's there to ask me about both.

I would highly encourage you to find someone that you can develop this relationship with. Much like a mentor, these people don't often fall from the sky. But they are certainly worth the search!

Even if you're at a larger nonprofit or social enterprise, I still think having an accountability partner could be really beneficial. If you lead a team, you can still use peer-to-peer feedback. And it's good to have someone that will let you vent and be yourself, which you may not get when you lead a team, or an organization. Plus, an outside perspective is always helpful, because we often don't see our work as clearly as someone from the outside. 

If I could give you any advice as you start thinking about the New Year, I would tell you to find an accountability partner. Think about it, and someone may come to mind. Or ask around to friends, family, or even in Facebook Groups. And be patient if it takes some time. You'll get so much out of this relationship, and it will be worth the time and effort it may take to find him or her!

 

Getting Help

Despite my best efforts, I just can't do it all. I don't have the time, skills, or experience needed to accomplish every task on my plate. And, while helpful, endless hours of research on Google may not be the best use of my time. So, once-in-a-while, I have to ask for help. (And I have a really hard time asking for help.)

Over the past year, that's mostly been in hiring others to do some of the things that I'm less capable of doing or don't have time for. Yes, there may absolutely be times when you can get someone to help you for free, like a volunteer or intern, or even by bartering, which is also essentially what Jen Gordon and I do in our accountability partnership.

However, sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay someone. Yes, those decisions are harder for some of us than others, but I don't think they should ever be off-limits. Why? Because hiring someone, even in a short-term capacity, can:

  • free up your time,
  • potentially create something better than you could've created on your own,
  • expand your network,
  • increase your knowledge,
  • provide that much-needed outside perspective,
  • and let you focus on the things that need your personal attention. 

Those bullets are part of the speech I give to my clients, but I occasionally have to give it to myself as well. :)

The two, big areas that I've paid for additional help this year are in graphics and managing my social media accounts. Mad+Dusty beautifully executed my branding and design, and on several occasions, I've also hired them to help out with smaller projects. One of the cooler things they've done for me is create templates in Canva that I can use again and again. (Ex: social media and testimonials) That way, the "short-term" project has some staying power, and allows me to build on what they've done professionally. So, consider an option like that when you need some graphics help. Have your designers create some templates, or at least some simple designs you can mimic when you don't have the ability to hire them for every little project that comes along.

And hiring someone to manage my social media just wasn't on my radar six months ago because it was something I already knew how to do. I'd never call myself a social media expert, but I feel pretty comfortable with it, and even give advice to clients about the subject. 

But the truth was that it just took too much of my time. And we all know that time is money! I needed to do more writing, finding clients, and taking care of tasks that genuinely required my attention. Social media just didn't fit the bill. So, this month, I've been in a 30-day experiment to see what my friend Jen Wilder could do with my channels. (I know a lot of talented Jens. :) Additionally, I've had her set up my social media scheduling tool, Smarterqueue. Again, something I knew I could do, but my time was better spent elsewhere. And it's been another great investment!

 

Your Turn

I can honestly say that these two items were the best investments I've made this year for Signify. They're allowing me to grow and scale, and setting the stage for a better 2018. I would also recommend the same types of investments for you.

Find someone that can hold you accountable, and return the favor. And hire out some of the tasks that need to come off your plate for whatever reason. 

And did you catch the other take-away? Both of these were experiments. We all feel a lot more comfortable taking risks when they have an end date. With Jen Gordon, we were only testing the waters for three months. We reassessed, and both agreed that we wanted to continue.

With Jen Wilder, it's been so fantastic learning from her, seeing her in action, and having her set up SmarterQueue. Right now, I just don't have the cash to pay her as an ongoing contractor, but you'd better believe I'll have some more experiments for her in the future!

What's your action step? Or what were your best investments this year? I'd love to hear!



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There are two significant investments I made in my small business this year. They may just surprise you, especially considering one of them is free!

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.